That's a good question since few, if any, of the 5,604 copies of the Congressional Record are probably ever read.
One of the unintended consequences of the new five-day workweek under the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill is a whopping bill from the Government Printing Office. A longer workweek means more paper.
The Congressional Record, for instance, is printed daily and captures every debate, vote, parliamentary maneuver, tribute to a fife-and-drum corps, post office naming, and utterance by members on the floor of the House and the Senate. It averages 250 pages.
That's two additional days of the Congressional Record, 500 more pages and an additional $3 million annually in printing costs, according to Robert C. Tapella, chief of staff for the printing office, which is responsible for publishing all government documents. The current press run for the Congressional Record is 5,604 copies, a figure set by Congress.
The agency is producing 3 million or 4 million pages a week for Congress from its 1.5 million-square-foot North Capitol Street headquarters, the largest information-processing, printing and distribution facility in the world. Tapella could not say how that compares with the workload under the last Congress.
All the talk of paper led some members of the panel to question why the printing office, which was created in 1813 when printing was a central tool in communication, hasn't gone all-electronic.
Who reads the Congressional Record with their morning coffee? If any do, it should come out of their office budgets.
The printing office is in the middle of a $29 million technological shift that will allow it to store and maintain all federal documents electronically, Tapella said. About 92 percent of everything it publishes now is available in an electronic format, said Michael L. Wash, the agency's chief technical officer. The agency produced its first online edition of the Congressional Record two weeks ago.
But [William H. Turri, the acting public printer,] said the printing office will stick with paper until Congress directs it to do otherwise.
"It's kind of like the newspaper business," said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn). "They know things are going electronic, but they know people are going to want to read their newspaper with their coffee."